Another loss, this time to a middling Purdue team at home. Seven losses out of the last eight. And Coach Weber, by his own comments, seems resigned to, well – resignation (or worse). It’s a sad day for this Illini fan. Bruce Weber is a good man who does things the right way. He works his butt off, recruiting, teaching, impacting the community. He’s a guy you want to succeed.
We’ve criticized the motion offense for years. It always seems less effective in the second swing of conference games due to over-familiarity and predictability. No need to rehash that. This team needed a strong defensive identity to win, and that just hasn’t happened. This is on the coaches and the players. It also comes down to the fact that a lot of the guys on this roster are decent role-players who are asked to do too much. We’re not going to call guys out here, so instead we will highlight some other guys, who chose to go elsewhere who would have made a difference.
In the end it comes down to recruiting. If you get the right guys, you win. In Illinois, that means you get the best players out of the state – including Chicago-land. Lou Henson did it briefly before being brought down unjustly. Bill Self was starting to do it. Whoever comes next will need to embrace this fact as well – even if it means diving into the inherent grime of street-agents and graft in the Windy City. The Illini have to get some of those guys. Does Coach Calipari ever get in trouble? Jim Calhoun? That Matta? Pitino? Coach K? No, not really. Illinois basketball was so wounded by the NCAA’s decision two decades ago it has affected the culture and willingness to play the recruiting game up north. That needs to change.
Here are five recent misses that would have made a big difference:
- Chasson Randle – Stanford. Combo guard from Rock Island who chose to go west. His smart game, passing skills, and leadership would have helped immensely.
- Wayne Blackshear – Louisville. Chicago shooting guard was a bigtime scorer in high school. Had some injury issues which have hampered his freshman season.
- Sam Thompson – Ohio State. All-State Small forward from Whitney Young in Chicago who has been used sparingly by Matta. Why did he want to go to Columbus instead of Champaign?
- Brad Beal - Florida. St. Louis shooting guard averaging 14 points as a freshman for Billy Donovan. When was the last time the Illini got someone out of St. Louis (the city)?
- Verdell Jones III/Lewis Jackson – Indiana/Purdue. Maybe Verdell (Champaign) never wanted to play in his home town, but LewJack (Decatur) likely would have. Maybe they were worried about playing time behind McCamey. Either of them – tough good-passing guards would have made a difference the last few years. And they were in our back yard.